Growing up with a Christian heritage, Taoism is sometimes hard to understand. For a layperson like me, it seem much more local, individual, even magical. It’s hard to distinguish its folk religious roots – ancestor worship, spirit believes, and various rituals – from more “official” Taoist doctrines. Doing some research, it seems this distinction – if there even is any – is controversial even among scholars as well.
Thus, much of religious life are smaller rituals and believes that might even differ from family to family, temple to temple. Taoism has strong shamanistic roots. (The word “shaman” even has its root in Northern Asian Manchu language, while in Mandarin “Wu,” 巫 is used). It is thus no surprise that the lady in this photo too were later described as shaman.
I still feel very grateful to be able and allowed (and photograph!) this ritual. The nice lady working at the temple described it as a cleansing ceremony. I followed a bunny trail on Taoist exorcism rituals when doing the research, but struggled to find a lot. Who are the spirits or gods dwelling in human bodies? Are they well-spirited (haha) or ill-meaning? Do they give us powers or stealing our Qi? I hope we will not find out personally!
(In the context of last week’s post you might even suspect it’s Hungry Ghosts taking a ride, but this photo was taken before Ghost Month so the doors to the underworld were still shut…).